Wednesday August 24 2011

Floods ravage east

By Joseph Miti


The next four months could see hundreds of families in eastern region go without meals after crops rotted following floods that left soils water-logged, the government announced yesterday.

The floods triggered off by heavy rains have also destroyed several homesteads and road infrastructure in many parts of the region. Several river banks have burst, thus amplifying the disastrous situation. “Farmers had grown a lot of food, but they have not had a chance to harvest it and they can’t plant new crops because the area is flooded,” said the Agriculture State Minister, Prof. Zerubabel Nyira. He named the worst affected districts as Butaleja, Bulambuli and those in Karamoja sub-region.

At least 231 households in the two sub-counties of Mazimasa and Himutu in Butaleja are water-logged, affecting about 1,392 people, according to a survey by Uganda Red Cross Society.

In addition, crops belonging to 592 families in the same district have been destroyed, thus exposing at least 4,140 to the risk of famine, according to Mr Stephen Wamukota, the URCS Mbale regional manager. “The current situation may in future lead to famine,” he emphasised. But the minister said the food shortage would be short-term because the government has plans to assist the affected families.

Prof. Nyira said the Agriculture ministry was coordinating with the Office of the Prime Minister, URCS and World Food Programme to provide relief assistance in the short run. “We will also support them to grow more food when time comes,” he said. Usually heavy rainfall from July to November leads to flooding in the eastern and some parts of northern Uganda.

The floods normally leave pit-latrines overflowing or collapsed thus negatively impacting on health and sanitation; and after water recede, the mainly peasant communities get exposed to increased risk of waterborne diseases like cholera.

Mr Wamukota yesterday said that water purification tablets and mosquito nets were urgently needed to stem poor sanitation related diseases. “There is also need to introduce disaster risk reduction, water and sanitation activities in Himutu and Mazimasa sub-counties,” he said in a statement.

In Bududa, the Office of the Prime Minister distributed food to 45 households whose crops were destroyed during a mudslide. The six people who were injured received essential household items from URCS. Two of the injured have been discharged while two others remain admitted to Bududa Hospital with their condition reported not worrying.

Meanwhile, in the far-flung districts of Kaabong and Kotido, heavy rains hindered humanitarian work as some roads became impassable with some bridges washed away. Experts warn of likely outbreak of cholera and Hepatitis E in the districts.